FNE at Cannes 2017: Loveless / Nelyubov COMPETITION

Loveless / Nelyubov, dir. Andrei Zvyagintsev Loveless / Nelyubov, dir. Andrei Zvyagintsev

CANNES: Russian director Andrei Zvyagintsev follows up on his international art house hit Leviathan which looked at corruption in society with Loveless that looks at the breakdown of family values and love in our contemporary life. While there are no doubt those that will jump to say that this is all about Russia or that “Mr Putin is responsible” as he seems to be accused of just about everything globally these days, Zvyagintsev really is looking at much deeper and more universal values here than just the politics of the moment.

The story looks at the breakdown of the relationship between Boris played by Alexei Rozin and Zhenya played by Maryana Spivak a married couple in contemporary Moscow who are no longer trying to save their marriage but only how to dissolve it via divorce.  They are barely on speaking terms but still inhabit the same Moscow apartment which they are trying to sell.

That the marriage is already dead is confirmed by both Boris and Zhenya already having established new lives while still living in the same apartment.  Boris is preparing to move in with his much younger pregnant girlfriend Masha played by Marina Vasilyeva while Zhenya has found a rich man Anton played by Andris Keishs who is keen to marry her. The future after their divorce looks bright and their problems will soon vanish.

But the forgotten person in this breakdown is their 12 year old son Alyosha palyed by Matvei Novikov who is truly “loveless” as his parents seem so caught up in their own lives they hardly notice his existence.  Alyosha’s spends his time being miserable while he absorbs the negative emotions of his parents break-up and staring at his computer.  No one seems to care about him at all. His mother does not even bother to check on him when she comes home late at night after an evening out with her lover.

But when this already lost boy suddenly disappears his parents finally have to come together to search for him. The estranged couple inform the police that the boy is missing but the police prefer to think the boy has run away and if the parents will just wait awhile he will come back.  In any case the overstretched Moscow police force lacks the resources to search for Alyosha so they recommend to the parents a local citizens group that looks for lost children.

While this could at this point easily turn into a police story hunt for a missing child Zvyagintsev chooses to take the audience to another level as he lays the blame for the situation at the door of the whole superficial and uncaring society. The breakdown of caring, family ties, emotions and the corrupt values where all that matters is money and clawing your way to the top become the real culprits of this mystery.  Loveless is a story about the lack of love in marriage and between parents and child.  This is a story set against contemporary Russian society but the malaise that it describes is global and the end is tragic.

Loveless does not pack the punch of Elena or Leviathan but it is still a worthy Cannes contender that will pack in festival audiences throughout the year.

Loveless / Nelyubov (Russia, France, Belgium, Germany)
Directed by Andrei Zvyagintsev
Cast: Maryana Spivak, Alexey Rozin, Matvey Novikov, Marina Vasilyeva, Andris Keishs, Alexey Fateev